by John Dick
Introductory Remarks—Observations on the general Language of Scripture respecting Christ—Evidence of his Pre-existence—His Divinity inferred from the ascription to him of the title, God; Instances.
THE result of our observations on the doctrine of the Trinity, is that there are three persons in the Divine essence, or that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are the same in substance, and equal in power and glory. The inference is so obvious as not to require to be pointed out to any person of common capacity, that each of them is truly and properly God; for it is evident from the oneness of their nature, that, in this respect, there can be no difference. If we have succeeded in the proof that a Trinity is revealed in the Scriptures, we might proceed without delay to other subjects; fully assured that he who redeemed us with his blood, and he who is the Author of our holiness and consolation, are not to be ranked among creatures, but are entitled to the same religious honour which, by the consent of all, is due to the Father. But there are various considerations which point out the propriety of suspending our progress, and engaging in a more minute inquiry into the divinity of the Son and the Spirit. The deity of our Saviour will be the subject of this and some other lectures; and I request your attention to the following preliminary remarks.
First, The divinity of Christ is a fundamental article of our religion. No question which may come under our notice is of greater importance and interest than this, whether the founder of Christianity is God or man, the Creator or a creature? It does not relate to a subordinate circumstance, but to the very essence of the religion, and the whole system is affected in whatsoever way it is decided. Those who believe Jesus Christ to be God, and those who maintain that he is only a human being, profess two religions totally different, as it were easy to show by a detail of particulars; they disagree in every thing, even in those articles which both verbally acknowledge, because they do not entertain the same views of them, and they hold them upon different grounds. The adversaries of his divinity are more allied to Jews and Mahometans, than to those who are usually denominated Christians; and to give them this name, is a misapplication of it equally gross as it would be to call him a Newtonian, who denied gravitation, or him a Cartesian, who laughed at the doctrine of vortices. Dr. Priestley was highly offended at David Levi, the Jew, for telling him, that when he looked into the New Testament, he clearly saw that Jesus of Nazareth was represented there as God, and that, for this reason, he could not consider the Doctor as a Christian. But Levi was right, and the reply of Priestley, that every man is a Christian who acknowledges Jesus to be the Messiah, was feeble and ineffectual; for the Evangelists and Apostles teach that he was not only the Messiah, but the Son of the Living God.
Secondly, The divinity of Christ is a doctrine of great practical influence. Nothing is more common with some men, than to represent certain doctrines as speculative points, as subjects merely of curious and unprofitable inquiry, with a view to lessen our respect for them, and to prepare the way for the easy reception of the opposite errors. We might say to them, If they are only speculations, why are you so eager to refute them? Why do you not allow us quietly to hold our harmless belief? Their zeal betrays them, and shews that they regard these points as much more important than they find it expedient to confess. But, besides the irreverence and impiety of such language, when used in reference to any thing which is contained in revelation, it is obviously false, although it may produce the intended effect upon such persons as suffer themselves to be imposed upon by confident assertion and vague declamation. No man can call the divinity of Christ a speculative point, who does not use words at random, without attending to their meaning, or whose understanding is raised but a few degrees above that of a child. If Jesus Christ was only a man, it may be our duty to remember his works with admiration, and his benevolent labours for the good of mankind with gratitude; but how feeble are these emotions, in comparison of the high and holy affections which will be excited by the belief of his Godhead! On the supposition that he is God, he is entitled to our supreme regard, to love not inferior in strength to that of which the Father is the object: we ought to repose unreserved and unshaken confidence upon him, committing to his care, for time and eternity, our bodies and our souls; we owe a respect to him which no prophet could claim, and are bound to receive his doctrines upon his own testimony, and to obey his commands solely in consideration of his authority. In a word, upon the question of his divinity it depends, whether we shall honour him with religious worship, or merely with civil respect; for nothing higher is due to the person of a created being, with whatever office he is invested, and with whatever qualifications he is furnished. To a Saviour who is God, we may offer up prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings; but if he is only a man, the worship which he has received from his followers in every age since the days of the apostles is idolatry, and thousands of the best and holiest men whom the world ever saw, have gone down into the grave under the guilt of this damnable sin.
Lastly, the divinity of our Saviour is a controverted point; although admitted by the great body of Christians, it has been impugned by various individuals and sects. It would be tedious to enumerate the opinions respecting the person of Christ, which were propagated in the early ages of the Church. Truth is one, but error is infinite; for, having no fixed standard to regulate its conclusions, it runs into as many wild and fantastic forms as the imaginations and wayward reasonings of men of corrupt minds may devise. The heretics of former times, disputed among themselves concerning the rank and dignity which ought to be assigned to Jesus Christ; but in one thing they all agreed, that he was inferior to the Father, and could be called God only in a subordinate sense. His divinity is still denied by the Jews, who have renounced the faith of their ancestors, and maintain, that as there is one God, so there is but one person in the Godhead. It is denied by Mahometans, who acknowledge him to be a prophet, but nothing more, inferring from the doctrine of the Unity, which they lay down as the fundamental article of their religion, that there is no distinction in the Divine Essence, and that God reigns without an equal or a Son. It is denied by those among ourselves who were formerly called Socinians, from Socinus the founder of their sect, one of the boldest blasphemers that ever appeared, but who now assume the name of Unitarians, to express the nature of their doctrine. It signifies believers in one God, and in this sense they mean it to be understood; but it is unjust and arrogant to appropriate this name to themselves, since they well know that, on this head, our creed is equally precise. Their design is to exhibit Trinitarians as holding a plurality of Gods, although the latter disavow the charge; and to persuade the world, that, of all Christians, they alone adhere to the first principle of natural and revealed religion. But we are all Unitarians, and assent to the truth solemnly inculcated upon the peculiar people, "Hear, O Israel, JEHOVAH thy God is one JEHOVAH." The only condition on which we will agree to call the followers of Socinus exclusively Unitarians is, that the name shall be understood by all parties, to denote believers in only one person in the Godhead. The doctrine of those who lay claim to it is, that Jesus Christ was a mere man, the Son of Joseph and Mary, who was commissioned by God to teach morality, and to reveal clearly a future state, and that, having sealed his testimony with his blood, he rose from the grave to give us the hope of immortality. This is the sum of their Christianity; and as it differs little from what is called Natural Religion, it seems to be a matter of no importance whether a man be a Unitarian or an infidel. There is reason to suspect that this pernicious doctrine has spread beyond the boundaries of the sect by which it is openly avowed; that it has found its way into churches professedly orthodox, and is taught by unprincipled men, who have solemnly pledged themselves to preach a different faith. To these adversaries of our Saviour's Divinity I might add Arians, who allow that he is more than a man, but maintain, that he is a creature, notwithstanding the magnificent titles with which they honour him, and the high functions which they represent him as performing. This sect was once predominant, but it gradually declined, and is now almost extinct. It has still adherents, but they are few in number; the greater part of those who had rejected the proper Deity of Christ, having sunk into the lowest depths of Socinianism.
In opposition to these heresies, we affirm that our Saviour is a Divine Person in the strict sense of the term; that he is God by nature, and not merely by title or office; that in the words of Paul, he is "God over all, blessed for ever." This proposition I shall endeavour to establish. As the Divinity of Christ is a doctrine of pure revelation, unassisted reason can give us no aid, and we must have recourse to the Scriptures for the only evidence by which it can be proved.
Before entering upon the direct proof of this most important truth, I would call your attention to the general language of the Scriptures concerning our Saviour, to which I formerly alluded in speaking of the Trinity. We have heard a Jew affirming, that the impression made upon himself and his brethren by reading the New Testament was, that Jesus is there represented, as not only greater than a man, but as a Divine Person; and there is no doubt that every individual, who was not pre-occupied with the contrary idea, and thus prepared to explain away the strongest expressions, would rise from the perusal of it with the same conviction. This is virtually confessed by Unitarians, when they are at so much pains to soften terms and phrases, and to put a meaning upon them the most remote imaginable from the obvious import of the words; for their elaborate criticism would be altogether unnecessary, if the sacred writings had not the appearance of teaching the doctrine, which they are so anxious to disprove. It is admitted that the Scriptures often describe our Redeemer as a man; and if this were all, there would be no controversy among christians respecting his person; but it is certain that they give names and titles, and ascribe attributes and operations to him, which are applied to the Supreme Being both in the Old and in the New Testament. Now we demand from our opponents a satisfactory account of this strange phenomenon. If the Evangelists and Apostles knew that he was a man like themselves, why have they indulged in descriptions of his character, calculated to create a very different idea? It is vain to tell us of oriental idioms, and rhetorical figures; because the question recurs, Why did they make use of such figures and idioms in composing books, which were designed to instruct the nations of the west as well as of the east? They could not but be sensible, that such language was fitted to mislead; why did they not avoid it? Did they use words at random? or were they careless of the effect? Not to say that such a supposition sets aside their inspiration, it would farther prove them to have been totally incompetent for the task, which they undertook, of giving to the world the true history of Christ and his religion. One professed object of their writings and their preaching was to reclaim mankind from idolatry; and was it the proper method of gaining this end, to talk of their Master in such a hyperbolical style, as was calculated to make men believe that he is a God, and has actually led thousands and millions into this error; so that, if they have succeeded in abolishing one species of idolatry, by their unguarded manner of expressing themselves they have established another, and the Son of Mary has been, ever since, associated with the Creator of the Universe as the object of religious worship? Unitarians have asserted, that the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ was borrowed from the Platonic philosophy by some of the early Fathers, and introduced under their authority into the church. But, instead of resorting to this foreign source, we can account for its adoption in a more simple and natural way. The Fathers themselves tell us that they derived it from the Scriptures, and appeal to them for the proof of it. No person can be at a loss to know where this doctrine, whether true or false, was found. If the immediate followers of our Saviour did not mean to teach it, they have been most unfortunate; for the great body of Christians for eighteen centuries have been fully persuaded that they have taught it; and we ask, what other method they could have taken, what other terms they could have chosen, if it had been really their design to persuade us of his Deity?
According to Unitarians, Jesus Christ was only a prophet. It is admitted that he was superior to Moses; but Moses, it is acknowledged, was next to him, no individual in the long succession of prophets being worthy to be compared with the man by whose ministry the law was given to the Israelites: and by that people he was held in the highest veneration. Yet, in reference to him no such language is used as is frequently applied to our Lord. He is never called the "Son of God," and "God over all;" he is never said to have "created the world," and to "uphold all things by the word of his power." Greatly as the Jews reverenced him, and zealous as they were for his honour, they would have accounted it blasphemy to speak of him in this manner. They never thought of deifying and worshipping him: they regarded him as the greatest of men, but still as merely a man. The reason is obvious. There is not a single sentence in his own writings, or in the other books of the Old Testament, which would lead them to entertain a more exalted idea of him. Why does the New Testament speak so differently? Why does it elevate Jesus, not only above the prophets, to whom it is granted that he was superior, but above angels and all created beings? Why does the style change, when he is the subject? Is it possible to account for the new train of expressions, if he was only a man like Moses, although possessed of higher qualifications? Will this difference, which does not affect his person or nature, justify the inspired writers in portraying him with the prerogatives and attributes of Godhead? It is impossible that any person of judgment and candour can think so. We are unavoidably led to suspect that there is some more substantial reason. In short, we are compelled to come to this conclusion, either that the Evangelists and Apostles were fools who knew not what they were saying, or that they were verily persuaded that their Master, although a partaker of the same flesh and blood with themselves, possessed a superior nature, to which all perfection belonged. They described him as God, because they believed him to be God; and in this belief they could not be mistaken, because it was founded upon a long and intimate acquaintance with him, and upon information which they had received from himself.
These general observations upon the language of the New Testament, furnish at least, a strong presumption in favour of the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ. The argument, indeed, is conclusive, if the authority of the Sacred writers be admitted in matters of this kind, and it appear that they give such an account of our Saviour, as can be true only on the hypothesis that he is God as well as man. Let us proceed to consider, more particularly, what is their testimony concerning him.
Unitarians maintain, that our Saviour began to be when he was born or was conceived in the womb of his mother, like another man, who prior to that period existed only in the elements of his being. But on looking into the Scriptures, we meet with many passages which obviously imply his pre-existence. I appeal to those texts which represent him as "having come down from heaven," "having come from above," "having come forth from the Father, and come into the world."* "To come into the world," simply denotes being born, and the phrase is used in reference to men in general; but "to come forth from the Father, and come into the world," is different, and implies existence with the Father prior to his birth. Having been first with the Father, he afterwards entered into the habitation or the society of men, not by a change of place, but by the assumption of their nature. We would not tolerate such language from any other person, and should think the man insane who should say, I came forth from God, and am come into the world. It would be natural to ask, How were you with God before you were born? The phrases coming from above, and coming down from heaven, are determinate; they obviously import, that our Lord had his residence above, or in heaven, before he manifested himself in the flesh. It is acknowledged, that when blessings are said to come from above, nothing more is meant than that God is their Author; and the reason of such phraseology is, that as the Scriptures always speak of a local heaven, it is natural to represent the gifts of his bounty as descending from it. But to say that a person came down from heaven, merely because he was a messenger from God, would be apt to mislead us by giving a false idea of his origin, and would not be conformable to the language of Scripture on similar occasions; for we no where find the expression applied to the mission of any other person. It is not said that Moses, or Elijah, or the Baptist, came down from heaven. Since, then, Christ alone is spoken of in this manner, there must be a peculiar reason for it; and what can it be but his prior existence? He has himself settled the meaning by his words to the Jews, who were offended at his calling himself, the living bread that came down from heaven. "What if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?"* As we know that he really ascended to heaven, there can be no doubt that he really descended from it.
The pre-existence of our Saviour is evidently implied in the phrase "to come in the flesh," which we find in the first epistle of John.† It is not simply expressive of his participation of human nature, but of his assumption of it. It signifies an act by which he became man, and necessarily supposes the possession of another nature by which that act was performed; as, when it is said of a man that he came in state, or came in disguise, it is intimated that he was previously a living agent capable of choice. Let the same expression be used concerning any other person, and see what would follow. Were we told that some one had come in the flesh, preaching a new religion, we should immediately ask, what does this mean? He has come in the flesh; could he have come in any other way? Was it in his power to come without flesh? Might he have appeared as an angel? Does it depend upon men themselves whether they shall be men, or beings of a different order? These questions, which would be perfectly natural in any other case, are proper in the present; and the only satisfactory answer to them is, that Jesus Christ did exist before his incarnation, and had power to take, or not to take, the nature of man. It could not have been said, that he came in the flesh, if, like all other human beings, he had been made man without his consent and without his knowledge.
The next passage to which I shall direct your attention, is in the Gospel of John. "In the beginning was the Word, ὁ λογος, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God."‡ The word αρχη, here translated the beginning, signifies the commencement of any period or series of actions; but here, I apprehend, it denotes eternity, because it appears from the context to have preceded the creation. In the same sense it is used in the eighth chapter of the Proverbs, where wisdom says, "I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, ere ever the earth was;"§ according to the Septuagint, εν αρχῃ προ του την γην ποιησαι. It is enough, however, for our present purpose, that the beginning is anterior to the appearance of our Saviour upon earth. That he is the λογος, there can be no doubt with any person who reads the following verses, in which the λογος is described as the true light to which John was sent to bear witness, and John was the forerunner of Christ. Unitarians, indeed, give us a view of the passage which would deprive us of an argument from it for the pre-existence of our Lord. According to them, "the beginning" is the commencement of his ministry. In this beginning, he was with God, that is, as the older Socinians said, he was taken up into heaven to be instructed in the will of God; or, as the moderns say, he withdrew from the world to converse with God in retirement. It ought to be observed that the Evangelist affirms, in a solemn manner, and repeats the affirmation, not only that the Word was with God, but that he wan or existed; or, in other words, he affirms that Jesus Christ, the Author of the new dispensation, existed at the commencement of that dispensation. An important piece of intelligence truly! which we should not have known, if his beloved disciple and familiar friend had not been pleased to inform us, that Jesus Christ was in being when he began to preach. Can any man believe that an inspired Apostle was guilty of such trifling? Do Unitarian commentators believe it themselves? No; but this perversion of the sense serves the purpose of supporting their favourite doctrine, that our Saviour did not exist till he was born.
Another passage in the Gospel of John is worthy of particular attention. Our Saviour had said to the Jews, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad." They said unto him, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?" He had not asserted that he had seen Abraham, or that Abraham had seen him, but only his day; but his hearers understood him to speak of co-existence with the patriarch; and as this interpretation of his words was just, he confirmed it: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am."* There is a striking peculiarity in these words, and an apparent violation of grammar, the present time being put before the past. The reason may be, that the Speaker, in his Divine nature, exists in a mysterious manner; that time is nothing to him, in whose sight a thousand years are as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night; that in this permanent, unsuccessive duration, there is no distinction of past and future. Be this as it may, the words clearly import, that although our Lord was not fifty years old, and about two thousand years had elapsed since the death of Abraham, he might have seen, and had actually seen him, for he was in existence before the patriarch was, was made, or was born; for in all these ways the verb γενεσθκι has been translated, and any of them expresses its meaning. Strange methods have been employed to evade the evidence of this text. The elder Socinians gave this interpretation: "I am or exist before Abraham is made;" that is, before he, who was originally called Abram a high father, shall become truly Abraham the father of many nations, or before the calling of the Gentiles. Was this an answer to the objection of the Jews? Could it serve any purpose for Christ to affirm with emphasis of himself, what was equally true of every person who heard him? for they all existed before the gospel was preached to the nations of the world. Contemptible as this evasion is, Socinus tells us that his uncle Lælius obtained this view of the text from Christ himself by many prayers. Justly might one of his contemporaries say to him, that never in the course of his life had he met with a more perverted interpretation of Scripture. The modern Socinians give a different comment. 'Before Abraham was, I may be said to have existed as the Messiah, because I was appointed to this office by the Divine decree;' and they have the countenance of Grotius. It seems, then, that things may be said to exist thousands of years before they exist, because God has determined to bring them to pass. I may say that I existed before the flood, and we may all say that we existed from eternity; but it will be wise to refrain from such language, if we wish to escape the charge of folly or insanity. Again I ask, how was this answer to the purpose? What light did it throw upon the subject of discourse? How did it meet the inquiry of the Jews? What did our Lord affirm of himself, which was not true of every other prophet? But taking the words in their plain, natural meaning, they are an answer to the question, Hast thou seen Abraham? Yes, I have seen him, for I was before him.
I shall mention only one other passage: "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."† In this passage, our Lord speaks of glory in reference to the future and the past. He refers to the future, when he prays that his Father would now glorify him, that is, after his sufferings; he refers to the past, when he says that he had glory with the Father before the world began. The import of the prayer is, that his original glory might be manifested in a particular manner, or after a temporary obscuration. We have here an answer to an objection, that Christ cannot be conceived to pray for the same state of glory which, on the supposition of his pre-existence, he enjoyed before his humiliation, because it had never been lost. But it had been concealed from the eyes of men by his voluntary abasement, and it would be displayed in a new light, by his exaltation in our nature to the throne of the universe, and by the result of his administration in the perfection and eternal happiness of his people. Unitarians, and some others, have held that this, as well as the former passage, refers to the Divine decrees, and understand "the glory which he had with the Father before the world was," to be the glory which the Father had purposed to confer upon him. But the same reasoning may be opposed to both interpretations. Things future are sometimes represented as present, particularly in the prophetical style; but it is contrary to the laws of language, especially in a narrative of facts, to describe things present, or on the eve of accomplishment, as having taken place many ages before. How would it sound if a good man, who had the hope of immortality, should say, I was glorified in the presence of God, before I or any created being existed? Let us not put words into the mouth of our Saviour which would be extravagant and absurd if uttered by any other person.
The pre-existence of Christ is sufficiently established by the passages quoted; and the Unitarian doctrine of his simple humanity is proved to be unscriptural. But more is necessary to demonstrate his Divinity. Arians allow that he existed before his manifestation in human nature, but they do not admit that he is God in the proper sense of the term. The doctrine of the founder of the sect was, that there was a time when Christ was not, and that he was created before all worlds. They have this advantage, that they are not under the necessity of explaining away, by dishonest criticism, many passages which press upon the Unitarian system. They can understand literally those texts which we have considered, and say without equivocation or mental reservation, that Christ was with God in the beginning, and had glory with him before the foundation of the world; that he existed before Abraham; that he came down from heaven, and came in the flesh. Those things, which are affirmed of him, are strictly true according to their system, which is more plausible than that of Socinians, and thus far agrees with the plain meaning of Scripture. It is therefore surprising that so many of its friends should have abandoned it, and adopted the doctrine of the simple humanity of Christ, which is embarrassed with so many additional difficulties. An Arian can not only go along with the Scriptures, when they assert that our Lord existed before his incarnation, but can give him the high titles which he receives, and ascribe to him the mighty works which are there represented as having been performed by him. He does not hesitate to say that the Son created the world, and appeared to the patriarchs, and governed the Church under the old dispensation; nor to call him the image of the invisible God, and the first-born of every creature, the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person. He can use such language with a nearer approximation to the truth than a Socinian, who is compelled to fritter it away into mere inanity; to reduce the pompous display of metaphors and similes into humble and creeping sense. Yet the distance between us and Arians is immense. This Being, whom they portray in such magnificent terms, is a creature superior to angels, but alike indebted for his existence to the will and power of the Almighty, a God not by nature, but by office. In the following discussion, therefore, we shall have to contend with them as well as with Unitarians, while we endeavour to prove, in opposition to both, that Jesus Christ is truly and properly a Divine Person, a partaker of the same nature with the Father, and possessed of all his perfections.
In prosecuting this design, I might go over the Scriptures in regular order, selecting such information as they supply with respect to his personal dignity. It would not be necessary to confine your attention to the New Testament, because the Old is a part of the same revelation, and amidst its notices and predictions may be expected to give us some knowledge of his character, as well as of the work which he had undertaken to accomplish. But this method would be tedious, and would require more time than can be allotted to this department of our course. There is a classification of the proofs which we may commodiously adopt, because it is a comprehensive one, and, arranging them under distinct heads, leads the mind, by a clear and successive induction, to the conclusion. Jesus Christ is proved to be God equal to the Father, by the ascription of the same names, and perfections, and works, and worship to him.
In the first place, Let us attend to the Divine names which are given to him in the Scriptures. That he is called, God, is so well known, that it is almost superfluous to produce particular passages. Now, it is acknowledged, that the name is sometimes given to creatures, to magistrates and angels; and Moses is said to have been a god to Pharaoh.* In the latter case, the meaning evidently is that Moses was in the room of God to Pharaoh, delivered God's commands to him, and denounced his judgments. The name, as we shall see, is used concerning Christ in a quite different manner. It may be observed, that when creatures are called gods, we are led to a figurative sense, not only by the plural number—which shews that their real divinity cannot be meant, because it is a fundamental doctrine of religion that there is only one—but by some adjunct or circumstance which qualifies the term; whereas in its application to our Saviour, the laws of just reasoning require it to be literally understood. If it is said to earthly princes, "Ye are gods," it is added in the same breath, "but ye shall die like men;"† and when angels are addressed as gods, they are at the same time commanded to acknowledge their inferiority by worshipping the first-begotten of the Father;‡ but the Godhead of our Saviour is expressed in such terms, and associated with such attributes and operations, as demonstrate it to be absolute.
"The Word was God."§ He was made a God, say the Socinians; but the deification of a creature is a notion which receives no countenance from Scripture, and it may be pronounced to be impossible. How was it done? Was a divine nature given to him? or were divine perfections communicated to him? Not a word of these things is to be found in the Bible, and either supposition is grossly absurd. How could a man be changed into a God? or how could a limited nature be endowed with omniscience and omnipotence? Modern Socinians translate the passage thus, The Word was a God; but how strange is it to the ears of christians to speak of more Gods than one, as if, like the heathens, we had subordinate deities! No; they say, our meaning is that he is a figurative god, like magistrates and Moses. But besides that, in the following verses, the Evangelist ascribes to him a work which is peculiar to the true God, namely, the creation of all things,‖ the original does not admit of this translation. Θεος, they reply, is without the article, and ought therefore to be rendered a God. But here the idiom of the Greek language is violated, and scholars know, that while the subject of a proposition admits, the predicate rejects, the article, and that the proposition, "The Word was God," could have been expressed only as it is, Θεος κν ὁ λογος. It is evident, that although Θεος. stands first in order, it is the predicate of the sentence, and denotes what ὁ λογος, the subject, is. This criticism, then, proves only the ignorance of those who have made it.
"Unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever."* To evade the evidence of this text, Unitarians tell us that it may be translated, "God is thy throne;" because the words rendered O God, are not ω Θσε, in the vocative, but ὁ Θεος, in the nominative. They ought to have remembered, that this is a Greek idiom, and that in the Attic dialect, the nominative is frequently put for the vocative. God is said to be a shield, a rock, and a fortress to his people, and as in these cases it is signified that he protects and defends them, there is nothing inconsistent with his dignity and supremacy. "But it is the reverse in the case before us. A throne," it has been justly remarked, "derives its dignity from the character and dominion of the sovereign who sits upon it. To call the Eternal Majesty the throne of a creature," as the Messiah is supposed to be, "seems little suitable to the reverence which is ever to be maintained towards the Creator, and which is one of the most distinguishing characters of the Scripture style,"† The design of the Apostle, in quoting these words of the Psalmist, is to prove the superiority of Christ to the heavenly messengers. He begins well, by shewing that God makes the winds his messengers, and flames of fire his ministers, thus reducing angels to the condition of servants; but he does not end well, if he say only that God is the throne of Christ, or the support of his authority. Where is the contrast? If he has given power to our Saviour, and upholds him in the exercise of it, he has done the same thing to angels and other ministers of his will; and how does his pre-eminence appear? If we read, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever," the point is decided, for he is God, and they are creatures; but the new translation destroys the force of the argument, and must therefore be false. The ancient versions agree with ours; and as far as I know, the new translation was not thought of till modern times, when arguments against the divinity of Christ were eagerly sought and collected from every quarter. We may rest satisfied that this is another passage, in which our Saviour is called, God, in the proper sense of the term.
The Apostle Paul, when enumerating the privileges and honours of the Jews, thus expresses the last and greatest of them:—"And of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is God over all, blessed for ever. Amen."‡ This single passage furnishes a decisive answer to the question respecting the divinity of our Saviour. The adversaries of this doctrine, fully aware that it is fatal to their system, have tried every possible method of destroying its force. "Of whom Christ came," ὁ ων επι παντων Θεος. Ὁ ων connects Θεος with Χριστος, and is used for ος εστι. To evade this evidence that he is God, they have proposed a different reading, ων ὁ—of whom, namely, the Jews, is God over all; that is, he is their God. But besides that, if this were the genuine reading, the article must, by the laws of the language, have been prefixed to ευλογητος, ('ων ὁ επι πκντων Θεος ὁ ευλογητος) which it is not; the alteration is made without the authority of a single manuscript, in order to silence the testimony of Scripture in favour of a particular doctrine. It is a mere conjecture, which Griesbach has mentioned among his various readings, while it would have been more worthy of him to have passed it over with contempt. We have said more than enough of it, and proceed to another attempt to annihilate the evidence, by converting the words into a doxology; as if the Apostle, while reviewing the instances of divine goodness to his nation, had felt the spirit of devotion arise, and burst forth into an expression of praise, "God over all be blessed for ever!" It is an overwhelming objection, that the words cannot be so translated without a violation of the idiom of the language. In all the doxologies where ευλογητος occurs in the New Testament and in the Septuagint, (and more than forty instances have been observed,) it is placed at the beginning of the sentence. If, then, Paul had intended a doxology, he would have said, ευλογητος ὁ ων ετι παντων Θεος εις τους αιωνας. As he has placed the words in a different order, they are plainly and necessarily an affirmation concerning the person last spoken of, namely Christ, who is pronounced to be God. And you will observe, that there is no room for the pretext which is employed in other places, that he may be called God in a figurative and subordinate sense; because he is denominated ὁ Θεος επι παντων, the Supreme God, or the Most High God over all the earth. That he may and ought to be so designated, will be readily admitted by those who believe, and entertain just notions of, the Trinity; for if the nature is the same, the persons must be equal, and one of them cannot be greater than another.
When Jesus shewed the wounds in his hands and his feet, Thomas said unto him, "My Lord, and my God."* We are told that this was merely a sudden expression of surprise and admiration. But to use the name of God on such occasions is profane; it is the practice of irreligious men, and would not have been imitated by a follower of Christ in the presence of his Master; or if he had inadvertently fallen into it, he would not have passed without reprehension. We have no evidence from the Scriptures that the Jews indulged in such exclamations, although they are too common among Christians. It has been said again, that they are an ejaculation addressed to the Father, "My Lord, and my God, how great is thy power!" or, "My Lord and my God has done this." We need only reply, that according to the Evangelist the words were not addressed to the Father, but to Christ, "Thomas said unto him," &c. It follows that Christ was acknowledged by Thomas as his Lord and his God; and surely if he had been in an error, his Master would have set him right.
Besides the passages which have been quoted, there are several others in which the name of God is given to our Saviour, but the evidence does not appear to common readers, in consequence of the manner in which they have been translated. It is a rule laid down by some late critics, that when two or more personal or attributive nouns, joined by a copulative or copulatives, are assumed of the same person or thing, before the first attributive the article is inserted, before the remaining ones it is omitted. It follows, that when two or more attributives occur with the article prefixed only to the first, they ought to be understood as referring to the same individual. For example, if we find Χριστος and Θεος coupled by the conjunction και and ὁ before Χριστος, but not repeated before Θεος, we must not explain them as referring to two persons but to one, and as asserting that he who is Christ, is also God. This canon has been established by examples from the classics, from the New Testament, and from the Fathers; so that we are fully authorized to apply it for the correction of some passages, in which, in consequence of not attending to it, our translators have misrepresented the sense. Dr. Wordsworth, who has examined the subject with great care, says, "I have observed more, I am persuaded, than a thousand instances of the form ὁ Χριστος και Θεος, some hundreds of instances of ὁ μεγας Θεος και σωτηρ, and not fewer than several thousands of the form ὁ Θεος και σωτηρ; while in no single case have I seen, where the sense could be determined, any one of them used but only of one person."† The Fathers are good authority, as they certainly were acquainted with the idiom of their own language. When the same phrases, therefore, occur in the New Testament, we are bound to understand them as they were understood by the Greeks. On this ground we beg leave to differ from the received version in some texts, and to give a translation more conformable to the original:—"Looking for the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,"* ought to be, the appearing of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ; του μεγαλου Θεου και σωτηρος ἡμων Ιησου Χριστου. "That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ,"† should be rendered, according to the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ; του Θεου ἡμων και Κυριου Ιησου Χριστου. "No whoremonger—hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God,"‡ in the kingdom of the Christ and God; εν τη βασιλεια του Χριστου και Θεου. "I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ,"§ before the God and Lord Jesus Christ; ενωπιον του Θεου και Κυριου Ιησου Χριστου. "Through the righteousness of God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ,"‖ through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ; του Θεου ἡμων και σωτρηρος Ιησου Χριστου. "Ungodly men, denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ,"¶ denying Jesus Christ the only Lord and our Lord; τον μονον δεσποτην και κυριον ἡμων Ιησουν Χριστον.
Enough has been said to prove that, according to the New Testament, Christ is God in the true and proper sense of the word. But this is not the only name expressive of his divinity, and in the next Lecture I shall shew that he is also called JEHOVAH.
Divinity of Christ inferred from the ascription to him of the title Jehovah; Instances—Inferred from the ascription to him of Divine Perfections; as Eternity, Omnipresence, Omniscience, Immutability, and Omnipotence—Inferred from the ascription to him of Divine Works; Instances.
I PROCEED to another name which is given to our Saviour. God revealed himself to his ancient people by the name JEHOVAH, derived from the verb הוה, to be or to subsist, and therefore signifying Ens, Existens ab æterno et in ælernum, or the self-existent and eternal Being. Its import shews that it cannot be given to a creature, but is appropriated to God; and accordingly he makes an exclusive claim to it in Scripture. As the name of a man distinguishes him from all other men, so the name, JEHOVAH, distinguishes the Most High from all other beings. "Seek ye him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night; that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth; JEHOVAH is his name."** The Psalmist says, "That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most High over all the earth."†† These passages are instances of the exclusive ascription of this name to the Creator and Governor of the universe, and prove that it is peculiar to him. I shall, however, add one quotation more, in which he takes it to himself, with a solemn declaration that he will not give it, and consequently that it ought not to be given, to any other: "I am JEHOVAH; that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images."‡‡ It implies something in which no other can share: the glory of underived and independent existence belongs to no man or angel.
Now, the argument which we found upon these passages is this, that if this name is given to Jesus Christ, he is not a created or a nominal God, but a divine person, distinct, it is acknowledged, from the Father, but united with him in the same self-existent essence. It is objected, that there are several instances in which this name is given to a creature. To mention one, he who appeared to Moses in the burning bush is called JEHOVAH, and yet is said to have been an angel. But before this passage can be fairly alleged against us, it must be proved that he was a created angel, contrary to the belief of the Church in all ages, that this was the same person who was afterwards manifested in human nature as the Messenger of God, and was then the Guide and Guardian of the peculiar people. It is objected, that Moses called an altar which he had erected JEHOVAH-nissi, my banner;* and that, when the ark was taken up to be removed to another place, he addressed it in these words. "Rise up, JEHOVAH, and let thine enemies be scattered;" when it rested again, he said, "Return, O JEHOVAH, unto the many thousands of Israel."† But these passages are cited to no purpose, because it will immediately appear, that they are not parallel to those in which our Saviour is described as JEHOVAH. It is evident that inanimate objects could be so called only in a figurative sense, and could be considered in no other light than as memorials of him after whom they are denominated. The altar was not JEHOVAH, but was dedicated to his honour; the ark was merely a symbol of his presence; and Moses addressed his words not to it, but to Him who appeared above it, between the cherubim. We give the same account of the passage in Ezekiel, which says, "The name of the city from that day shall be, JEHOVAH is there:"‡ of which the meaning obviously is, that the city shall be the residence of JEHOVAH, who will manifest his presence in it by the operations of his power and grace. The application of the name to our Saviour suggests totally different ideas. He is a living person, and is throughout the Scriptures represented as possessing the attributes, and performing the works, of God; and hence we are authorised to consider it as applied to him in the true and literal sense of the term. If it is proved that he is God, because he is called God, it will be proved that he is JEHOVAH, if it is found that he is called JEHOVAH without a figure.
In the sixth chapter of the prophecies of Isaiah, we have an account of a vision in which he saw the Lord high and lifted up, and heard the seraphim adoring him:—"Holy, holy, holy is JEHOVAH of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory."§ If we turn to the twelfth chapter of John, we shall find him quoting the words which JEHOVAH addressed to the prophet on the occasion, and then adding, "These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him."‖ Whose glory did he see? Christ is the subject of the Evangelist's discourse, and to him only can the pronoun refer. Isaiah therefore saw the glory of Christ, when he saw JEHOVAH in the temple; he saw it, not with the eye of his mind, contemplating future scenes, but with his bodily eyes. Is it not then certain, that Christ is JEHOVAH?
Isaiah 40:3.—"The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of JEHOVAH, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." Hear what an Evangelist says: "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea."—"For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."¶ To these verses we may join the words of the angel to Zacharias concerning his promised son: "He shall go before him," the Lord God of the children of Israel, "in the spirit and power of Elias, to—make ready a people prepared for the Lord."** We see the prophecy, and we see its fulfilment. "The voice crying in the wilderness" was the voice of the Baptist; "the way of JEHOVAH" was prepared by his ministrations, while he excited, in the minds of the people, an expectation of the appearance of the Messiah; and consequently the Messiah is JEHOVAH. The inference is so obvious, that all evasion is vain.
Jer. 23:5, 6. "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, JEHOVAH our Righteousness." It is admitted by Jews and Christians that this is a prediction of the Messiah. Some read, this is the name which Jehovah shall call him, our Righteousness; but the most distinguished interpreters contend for our translation; and so it seems to have been understood by the author of the Greek version, who, however, has not given the sense of the two Hebrew words יהוה צדקגו, but has joined them together as belonging to the same person, και τουτο το ονομα ὁ καλεσει αυτον κυριος Ιωσεδεκ. The corresponding passage in chap. 33:16, is wanting in the Vatican and Alexandrine manuscripts of the Septuagint, but is found in some others, thus: Τουτο εστι το ονομα ὁ κληθησεται Κυριος δικαιοσυνη ἡμων. It is objected that, in this latter passage, the name is given to Jerusalem. "This is the name wherewith she shall be called, JEHOVAH our righteousness." But the words have been rendered, this is he who shah call to her, Jehovah our righteousness. The word name is not in the original Hebrew. It is supposed by some critics, that the passage has sustained an alteration, and that it was originally the same as in the twenty-third chapter, and as it is found in several manuscripts. There is little reason to doubt that the Messiah is here announced as JEHOVAH, and as our Righteousness, in allusion to the inestimable benefit resulting to us from his mediation. "He brought in an everlasting righteousness," and "of God is made to us righteousness."
Isaiah 8:13, 14. "Sanctify JEHOVAH of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence, to both the houses of Israel; for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem." But these words are applied to Christ in the 8th verse of the second chapter of the first Epistle of Peter.—Isaiah 45:21–23. "Who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I JEHOVAH?—I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear." When we find an apostle representing it as the design of the exaltation of Christ, that every knee should bow at his name, and every tongue confess that he is Lord;* and quoting this passage as a proof that we shall all appear before his judgment seat,† can we doubt that he was considered by Paul as the JEHOVAH who speaks in the writings of the prophets?—Zechariah 12:10. In the preceding context, the speaker is JEHOVAH, and he says, "I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced." The last words are quoted by the Evangelist John on the occasion of our Saviour's side being pierced with a spear.‡ But JEHOVAH declares that it was he who was treated in this manner. How could this be, since the Divine nature is impassible? The words are intelligible upon our hypothesis, and upon no other, that he, who suffered on the cross, was greater than he seemed to be, was the Son of God as well as the Son of Mary, the eternal and living One, and a man of flesh and blood.
These passages are sufficient to shew that our Saviour receives the name of JEHOVAH; and as God appropriates it to himself, and declares that he will not give it to another, it follows, that although he was born in Bethlehem, and died on Calvary, he is fitly described by the name which is expressive of eternal and independent existence.
In the second place, We prove the Divinity of Christ from the ascription of divine perfections to him. We know nothing of any being but by its properties. What matter and spirit are, we cannot tell; but there are certain qualities by which they are distinguished, and when we discover those of the one class or the other, we pronounce that the subject, in which they inhere, is matter or spirit. Properties are inseparable from essences. A stone does not think, nor is a mind tangible and divisible. Sensation, motion, and instincts distinguish the inferior animals; reason is characteristic of man; and ascending to the highest Being in the universe, we conceive him to possess perfections, of which there are either no traces in his creatures, or only faint lineaments which preclude all comparison, and place them at an immeasurable distance from him. Infinite as they are, they could not exist in a finite nature; for it would be an express contradiction to suppose a being to be limited and unlimited; to be bounded in essence, but unbounded in energies; to be confined to a portion of space, and yet to operate throughout all space. If, then, we find that divine properties are ascribed to any person, by authority which proves that they do actually belong to him, we must believe that his nature is divine. Absolute eternity, immensity, omniscience, and omnipotence, are incompatible with the idea of a creature.
First, Eternity is ascribed to Christ, by which I mean, not merely an existence which will have no end, for in this sense angels and human spirits are eternal, but an existence which had no beginning. He is said to have been "in the beginning with God," that is, as the Evangelist explains himself, "before any thing was made;" "to have been before all things," and "to have had glory with the Father before the world was."* It may be objected, that these expressions prove only his pre-existence, and that he might have been created before all worlds, as Arians believe. But, to affirm of any person that he existed before any thing was made, is to exempt him from the number of creatures; and, if there had been no prejudice in the way, would have been universally so understood. If, however, our antagonists demand something more explicit, I would remind them that, in his first Epistle, John calls him "that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested" to the world;† pretty plainly signifying, that before his incarnation he possessed an eternal existence. In the Book of Revelation, he says of himself, "I am the First, and the Last, and the Living One." "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last."‡ The same idea is here thrice repeated in different terms, and this, added to the solemnity of the language, unavoidably leads us to regard it as an important one. I cannot conceive how any man could persuade himself, that such language might be used of a creature. It does not admit of being explained as signifying any thing less than an eternal duration; and God applies it to himself in the Old Testament: "Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I JEHOVAH, the First, and with the Last; I am he." "I am the First and I am the Last, and besides me there is no God." "I am he; I am the First, I also am the Last."§ There is another passage in the Revelation, the application of which has been disputed, but in which there is reason to think that Christ is the speaker. "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord," or, according to Griesbach's corrected text, "the Lord God, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty."‖ In the preceding verse, Christ is expressly mentioned; and after the two next verses, he announces himself in the same words: "I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last." If he is a different being from the Lord God, why does he immediately assume his style? Would it have been dutiful and reverent to proclaim himself by the titles under which the Creator had revealed himself a moment before? At any rate, if the speakers are different, they are both possessed of the absolute eternity which the titles denote.—The last passage which I shall produce is in Micah: "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me, that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting."* An existence which should commence in time, and an existence which had no beginning, are both ascribed to the Messiah. To assert that his goings forth were from everlasting, because God had made an eternal decree concerning him, (in respect of which there was no difference between him and every other Bethlehemite), is so gross a perversion, that it is unworthy of farther attention. "Though the two principal terms," (קדם and עולם), says Dr. Smith, "taken separately, are occasionally used to denote a limited yet to present and human apprehensions, a very long and hidden) period; the proper and usual meaning of each is a REAL ETERNITY; each occurs in passages evidently intended to be the most solemn assertions of Infinite Duration, and the combination of the two furnishes the strongest expressions for that purpose, of which the Hebrew language is capable."†
In the second place, Another divine perfection which is ascribed to Jesus Christ, is omnipresence. I need not say that this is a perfection peculiar to God, and of which there is not even a shadow in any creature, because it implies immensity of nature. "Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord."‡ We cannot remove from his presence; but whether we ascend to heaven, or descend into hell, or fly on the wings of the morning to the ends of the earth, he is there to meet us. Now, let us observe whether any thing is said in Scripture concerning our Lord, which implies the possession of this perfection; and as there can be no doubt among Christians that he knows his own nature, and is the faithful and true Witness, I shall lay before you his own words. "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven."§ The meaning of the first part of this verse has been differently explained, not being quite obvious, because it refers to an ascension to heaven as a past event. He had said to Nicodemus, who was astonished at the doctrine of the new birth, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, we speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?"‖ He adds, that he only was qualified to give information concerning these things, for no man, but himself, had been in heaven to acquire the knowledge of them, by immediate intercourse with God. It is not affirmed that he had ascended to heaven, but that no other man had. Unitarians give a figurative meaning to the whole verse, and express it thus: "No one has ever been admitted to a participation of the Divine counsels, except the Son of man, Jesus of Nazareth, who has been commissioned to reveal the will of God to man, and is perfectly instructed and qualified for this purpose." But what strange language do they put into the mouth of our Lord; language calculated to mislead, while it would have been equally easy to express the matter plainly, and much better, as all danger of mistake would have been prevented. He who has no end to serve by perverting the words, will acknowledge that they teach a literal descent from heaven, and, what is more directly to our purpose, his presence in heaven at the time when he was addressing Nicodemus: "The Son of man who is" not who was "in heaven." He had descended from it, economically, by assuming our nature; but he had not left it in respect of his essence. He had another nature besides that which was visible, a nature which was not confined to one place. By declaring that he was on earth and in heaven at the same time, he assumed that Divine perfection which is expressed in the words formerly quoted: "Do no I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?" The evidence of this passage presses hard upon the opponents of his Divinity; and Dr. Priestley was driven to his last shift, when he ventured to express a suspicion, that either John's amanuensis mistook what he dictated, or that John himself, being old when he wrote his Gospel, had forgotten what his Master said. Surely the man must have spoken against the conviction of his own mind.
Our Lord promised, that "where two or three were gathered together in his name, he would be in the midst of them."* It is an arbitrary assumption, that this promise was confined to the Apostolic age, as there is the same reason for the presence of Christ with his people, in all ages of the world. To say, that he would be present with them in spirit, as Paul was with the Corinthians, or would be present with them by his authority delegated to them, is to put a sense upon the words which they would never suggest to an honest man, who had no object but to ascertain their real meaning. Unitarians speak of a corporeal presence of Christ with his followers, and appeal to the case of Stephen, who saw him at his death, and of Paul, to whom he appeared in the way to Damascus. Granting that there was a bodily presence of our Saviour on those occasions, we ask for proof that the first christians, to whom they would restrict this privilege, were always favoured with it in their religious assemblies. We say that this was impossible. How could he be present at the same time, in a thousand congregations, held in Judea, in Asia Minor, in Greece, and in Italy? If he was in one, he could not be in another; but he promised to be in the midst of them all. Do Unitarians believe, with Luther ans, the ubiquity of his human nature, or, with Papists, the doctrine of trans substantiation? Our Lord promised to be in the midst of his disciples in the same sense in which God was in the midst of his ancient people, namely, by a real but invisible presence. Once more, when he gave his Apostles a commission to teach and baptize all nations, he said, "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."† ἑως της συντελειας του αιωνος. Some translate, to the end of the age, or the end of the Jewish dispensation. It is certain, however, that the phrase occurs where it must signify the end of the world, and I can see no good reason for giving it here a different sense. In particular, I am at a loss to conceive what Unitarians would gain by the new version, and their efforts to establish it are a waste of criticism; for if, according to their hypothesis, Christ could be with his disciples to the end of that age, he could as well be with them to the end of the world; and we may, with perfect safety, admit the one interpretation as well as the other. But the truth is, that if he had been a mere man, he could not have performed his promise even for a short period, as we have shown above; and it is a mere imagination to think that the difficulty is lessened, by abbreviating the time. How could Christ, if he was not a Divine person, be present with his followers in all places of the world, in the plain import of the promise? It would have availed them little that they had his authority and approbation, or even that he knew what they were doing, if he had not been near to direct, assist and defend them.
In the third place, The Scriptures teach that Jesus Christ is omniscient "No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him."‡ We may remark by the way, that there must be something peculiar about the Son, something which distinguishes him from all other persons, since he is known, fully understood, and comprehended only by the Father. But what is to be observed in those verses for our present purpose is, that the knowledge of the Son by the Father, and of the Father by the Son, are commensurate, that is, the Son as thoroughly knows the Father as the Father knows the Son. There is no distinction of degrees, but the one knowledge is as perfect as the other. It may be objected, that others are represented as knowing the Father, and therefore, that the knowledge of the Son is not necessarily perfect more than theirs, although it may be granted to be superior. But observe this difference, that the knowledge which they possess is communicated by his revelation; whereas his knowledge is not revealed to him, but is natural and underived, like that of the Father. As the latter knows the Son, so the Son knows the Father by intuition. Knowledge is in him, as water is in a lake or reservoir; but is in others, as water in a stream, inferior in quantity as well as dependent upon the source. The simple consideration, that their knowledge is secondary, sets aside the idea of equality. He has such knowledge of the Father as the Father has of him; they have such knowledge of the Father as the Son is pleased to communicate.—"Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, on the feast-day, many believed on his name when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them," or placed no confidence in them; and for what reason? Had they exhibited any external evidence of insincerity? Had they, by word or deed, given him any ground to suspect them? The Evangelist lets fall no hint of this kind; but adds, "because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man."* The persons spoken of were struck by his miracles, and acknowledged him to be the Messiah. Any other man would have been satisfied with their profession; but he was not, because he was acquainted with their sentiments and feelings, and knew that nothing more had been produced by his miracles than a transient impression. It is plainly Affirmed that he saw their hearts, although they were concealed from other eyes by fallacious signs; that he saw the hearts not of those alone, but of all men; and that his knowledge was immediate and intuitive. He needed no testimony, but knew in himself. Is not this the knowledge of God? knowledge which he claims exclusively to himself. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings."† In accordance with the words of the Evangelist are those of our Saviour himself in the book of Revelation. "All the churches shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts; and I will give unto every one of you according to his works."‡ It is worthy of attention, that, with a slight alteration, these are the words of God which have just been quoted from Jeremiah.—"Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee."§ An attempt has been made to prove that these words do not imply omniscience, because John says to Christians in general, "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things."‖ But expressions are to be explained by the connexion. The apostle in this latter passage is speaking of false teachers, antichrists as he calls them, who were endeavouring to draw away the disciples from the faith; and he consoles them by the consideration that they had received an anointing, the influences of the Holy Spirit, to enable them to distinguish between truth and error, to know all the subjects in dispute, or all the essential doctrines of religion. It is perfectly evident that the universal phrase, all things, must be so limited. But Peter, in his reply to Christ, refers, not to the knowledge of doctrines or actions, but to the knowledge of the heart. Jesus had thrice asked whether Peter loved him. The repetition of the question after it had been answered in the affirmative, seemed to imply a doubt of his sincerity, and he said, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." 'Why dost thou put the question so often? There is nothing concealed from thee, not even the secrets of the heart. Thou needest not to be told that my affection to thee is genuine.' This is plainly to ascribe omniscience to Christ, who was so far from correcting the apostle, as he would have done if he had deified him being only a man, that he gave a virtual sanction to what he had said, by subjoining, "Feed my sheep."
Farther, Immutability is ascribed to him, which is a divine attribute incommunicable to a creature. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and to-day, and for ever,"* or the same in all ages, past, present, and to come. This proposition was intended, as appears from the context, either to excite the Hebrews to imitate the conduct of their rulers who had died in the Lord, by an assurance of the same happy result to themselves, founded on the unfailing love and power of the Redeemer; or to engage them to constancy in the faith, because the Author of the Gospel is unchangeable in his authority to command, and in his ability to protect and reward. Whatever is the connexion, it is solemnly asserted that he is a person, of whom perpetual identity of nature and character may be predicated. If he is only a man, it is impossible to conceive with what propriety these things are spoken of him. His history is full of changes. Not only did he pass through those which commonly happen to men, but he was once in a state of profound humiliation, and now he is raised to great dignity and authority. According to Socinus and his followers, he experienced the most wonderful of all changes, for having been a man, he has since been made a God. To ascribe immutability to his person, if merely human, would be absurd and contrary to fact; and on this hypothesis, such passages as convey that idea can be understood only of his doctrine. But his person is certainly the subject of the following address, and he is contemplated in his uncreated nature. "And thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thine hands; They shall perish, but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail."† There can be no doubt to whom these words should be applied, because they are quoted in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, to prove the superiority of the Son to angels. They refer immediately to his immutable duration; but this attribute is peculiar to one who exists by necessity of nature, which implies the perpetual possession of every possible perfection.
Lastly, Divine power is ascribed to him. He is called the mighty God, when he is announced by a prophet as a child to be born, and a Son to be given to us;‡ and "his kingdom ruleth over all." But the consideration of his omnipotence leads me to the next part of our division.
In the third place, It was proposed to prove the Divinity of our Saviour from the works which are ascribed to him, and which are evidently such as no mere man, and I may add, no creature could perform. Of this our adversaries are aware, and accordingly employ their arts of criticism to prove, that he did not perform them.
I begin with a passage, in which he evidently claims Divine power, and represents his own works as of equal extent with those of his Father. "But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he had not only broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. Then answered Jesus, and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise."* The occasion of these words, was a charge brought against him of having profaned the Sabbath, because he had cured a lame man upon it. How does he justify himself? Is it by the plea, that works of mercy are not a violation of the sacred rest of that day? No: it is by alleging the example of God, who carries on the operations of providence upon all the days of the week, and intimating very plainly, that he had the same right to work whenever he pleased. The example of God is appealed to in vain, if he did not possess the same authority, and was not equally independent of the law of the Sabbath. No mere man could plead, without impiety, this reason for working on the first day of the week. How should we be shocked if any person presumed to say to those who reproved him for breaking the Sabbath, God works, and therefore I may work? It is to be observed farther, that he represents himself as doing the same works which are done by the Father, and he expresses himself without any reservation: "What things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise." Every work performed by the one, is performed by the other. But this was impossible without an equality of power; and our Lord must be understood as, in the most explicit terms, claiming omnipotence. It may be objected, that he says, "the Son can do nothing of himself." But, if we should not be able satisfactorily to explain these words, still it is clear that, in concurrence with the Father, he is capable of producing every possible effect. The words probably refer to the mysterious union of the Father and the Son, in consequence of which the one does not work without the other, but both carry on their operations in concert; and he might refer to this fact in order to repel the accusation of the Jews; for how could he be guilty of profaning the Sabbath by a work, which he had performed in concurrence with the Author of the Sabbath? I proceed to particulars.
First, The creation of the universe is ascribed to him. "All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made."† Παντα is a universal term, and is so to be understood, unless circumstances obviously require it to be limited in its meaning. Our opponents would restrict it, not from any necessity arising from the context, but because they must get quit of this proof of the Divinity of Christ. By all things, then, we are to understand, according to them, the moral world, or the Church. All things are reformed by him, say some, for he introduced a new religion, to correct the errors and vices of mankind; or, all things were done by him, as other critics choose to render the word εγενετο. He did all things in the New Dispensation; he preached the gospel, and gave a commission to the Apostles, and enacted laws for the government of his followers. The Evangelist happens to say soon after, "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not."‡ The translation of εγενετο, which was proper in the third verse, will be proper also in the tenth, which we must read thus: "He was in the world, and the world was done by him." Whether the world means the earth, or its inhabitants, it would puzzle Œdipus himself to explain the proposition, "The world was done by Christ." To say, that all things are the church, or the human race as reformed by the Gospel, is liable to this objection, that the Evangelist uses the world, in verse 10, as an equivalent term to all things, in verse 3; and the world never, in the sacred writings, signifies the Church, although the world to come sometimes denotes the New Dispensation. Besides, how could it be said, that Christ was in this world, and it knew him not? The reformed world always knew him, for it waft reformed by the Gospel which revealed him. This Unitarian comment may be dismissed as unintelligible. The most distinguished critics have understood the words in the literal acceptation, and rejected the figurative sense as absurd. We formerly referred to this passage as a proof of the pre-existence of our Saviour; and, taking into one view the various attempts which have been made to explain away all the particulars in it, we may say with Dr. Owen, "I think, since the beginning, place it where you will, the beginning of the world, or the beginning of the gospel, there never was such an exposition of the words of God or man." Christ was in the beginning of his own ministry; a fact, no doubt, which we should not have known, if the Evangelist had not informed us of it; he was with God, or he retired to converse with him, and to receive instructions for his ministry; he was a God, or, in truth, was not a God, but a mere man; and he made all things, that is, he made nothing, but reformed somethings. Such are the wonderful discoveries of Unitarian criticism.
Colos. 1:16, 17.—"For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist." One should think that this single passage would be sufficient to settle the dispute. It is a commentary, or amplification of the words of the Evangelist, "And without him was not any thing made that was made." It will be acknowledged, I think, by every person of candour, that, if it had been the design of the Apostle to inform us, that Jesus Christ created the world, he could not have selected terms more proper for the purpose. The universe is described by "all things in heaver and in earth, visible and invisible," for every thing is comprehended in this classification; and thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, are specified that no room might be left for imagining, that he was concerned in making only the subordinate parts of it. If it should be asked, how he, who was born about sixty years before the date of this Epistle, could give being to this material and intellectual frame, which, according to the Hebrew chronology, had existed for four thousand years? it is stated, that he was before it, before it in time, in respect of his superior nature, of which abundant proof has been already produced. Lest it should be alleged, in order to evade the evidence of his proper Divinity, that he acted by delegated power, and was not the primary agent, but a minister of God, it is added, that as all things were created, δἰ αυτου, by him, so they were created, εις αυτον, to him, or for him. He is the last end of the creation, as the Father is said to be, "who made the world by Jesus Christ," and of whom it is said, εξ αυτου, και δἰ αυτου, και εις αυτον τα παντα, "of him, and through him, and to him are all things."* Now, he must be considered as a principal in the work, for whose glory it was wrought. It may be objected, that, in the preceding verse, Christ is called πρωτοτοκος πασης κτισεως, the first-born of the whole creation,† and is thus numbered among creatures. But, this inference is directly at variance with the verses following, for if all things, without exception, were created by him, how can he be one of them? Did he create himself? Unless we are disposed to charge the Apostle with a palpable blunder, a gross contradiction, we must understand πρωτοτοκος, either, according to the explanation of some, as signifying the first-begetter or the producer of all things, or as used here (as it is on some other occasions) metaphorically, to denote a person holding the chief place, the Lord of the whole creation, as the first-born in a family was lord and possessor of the inheritance. This sense of the term agrees with the words following, for undoubtedly he is Supreme over all things by whom "they were created." Here, again, that species of criticism which seeks not to illustrate but to obscure, not to interpret but to pervert, has employed its usual arts to evade the evidence. The passage, we are told, signifies a new moral creation effected by the Gospel; the things in heaven and on earth are the Jews and Gentiles, who have been enlightened and reformed by it; and things visible and invisible, are the present and future generations of men. Was a commentary so far-fetched, and so different from the natural sense of the terms, ever given before? We might ask Unitarians, whether they actually believe this to be the real sense of the passage? Or, if it be said that we have no right to bring them to confession, we may ask them, whether it would have occurred to any person who had not first determined to reject the literal meaning, and then tortured his brains to find out another more suitable to a preconceived system? It is a discovery of modern date; for ages the words were understood as we explain them; and the Greek Fathers, who read the New Testament in their vernacular language, considered the Apostle as describing a proper creation.
In the second place, The preservation of all things is ascribed to him. "By him all things consist,"* συνεστηκε, are kept together, or preserved from falling into confusion or annihilation. This is surely a divine work; and it could not he said, consistently with reason and piety, that the universe is sustained by a creature. The same thing is taught in another place:—"Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power,"—φερων τε τα παντα τω ρηματι της δυναμεως ἁυτου,—"sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."† Τα παντα signifies the universe, which the Son of God bears up, or sustains, by his mighty word. The expression excludes the idea of labour or difficulty, and imports that the creation is continued in existence and order by his efficacious will. "Thou, even thou, art JEHOVAH alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all," or "makest them all to live."‡ "JEHOVAH, thou preservest man and beast."§ When we find similar language used concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, there can remain no doubt that he also is JEHOVAH, unless we will venture to say, that the sustentation of living and inanimate beings is falsely ascribed to him by the Apostle, or that God has, since the time when the Psalmist and Prophet wrote, admitted a creature to co-operate with him in the administrations of providence.
In the third place, The resurrection of the dead is ascribed to him. It will be universally acknowledged that this is exclusively a work of God. He only who first framed the human body, and connected with it a living spirit, can restore that body after it has undergone dissolution in the grave, and bring back the soul from the invisible world to its original abode. Agreeable to this dictate of reason is the declaration of Scripture, that it is "God who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were."‖ Jesus Christ raised the dead while he was sojourning on the earth; as the daughter of Jairus, the widow's son at Nain, and Lazarus, besides many others not named; and it is he who will appear in the end of the world, and restore to life the millions of the human race who are sleeping in the dust. "The hour is coming, in which all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."¶ It may be objected, that this work is not a decisive proof of his Divinity, because the dead were raised by some of the Prophets, and by all the Apostles, who received power to this effect when they were sent forth to preach, "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead."* The simple fact, that they received this power from our Saviour, is sufficient to convince us of his superiority. What they did, they did in his name; and, consequently, we cannon justly consider him and them as possessing an equality of power. Let it be farther observed, that while the Prophets raised the dead in the name of the God of Israel, and the Apostles in the name of their Master, he performed this miracle in his own name, that is, by his own power, and spake of himself in terms, which no Prophet or Apostle would have presumed to employ:—"I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead yet shall he live."† Still it may be said, that the power which he displayed upon earth, and will more gloriously manifest at the general resurrection, is not his own, but is the power of God, with the exercise of which he was entrusted for the purposes of his mission. But the delegation of omnipotence to a creature is inconceivable and impossible; the supposition of delegated power is inconsistent with the performance of the work in his own name, and it is directly opposed to his express declaration, "As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will."‡ These words are an explicit assumption of equal power with the Father, and of the same uncontrolled and sovereign exercise of it in the restoration of life.
In the last place, The final judgment is ascribed to him. The Scripture says, that "JEHOVAH is our judge;"§ but it says also, that "we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."‖ "When the Son of Man shall come in his glory,—all nations shall be gathered before him."¶ The inference is plain, that Jesus Christ is God. It may be said, (and this is the language of Scripture itself,) that God will judge the world by him; but let us not be carried away by the sound of words, without attending to their meaning. The visible Judge will be a man, it is acknowledged; but will he be a mere man? Is a creature to decide the fate of other creatures? Was it his law which they obeyed or transgressed? Has a creature the reward of heaven and the punishment of hell at his disposal? These questions suggest a negative answer to every person not divested of reason and piety. Every one must give an account of himself to God, and who but God is qualified to receive the account? Omniscience is necessary to him who pronounces the final sentence, as well as omnipotence to execute it; for it will proceed, not merely upon the external actions of men, but upon their motives and their thoughts, which are known to him alone who sees not with eyes of flesh, but searches the hearts and tries the reins. Christ will indeed act in concurrence with the Father, who is hence said to judge the world by him; but the high office necessarily supposes him to be possessed of infinite perfections.
From Lectures on Theology